Fretlight Guitar / The Players' Blog

About Rusty Shaffer

Rusty Shaffer, an avid guitar player, pilot and mechanical engineer, invented the Fretlight guitar in 1987, forever transforming the process of learning to play guitar. To develop and market the Fretlight, Shaffer founded Optek Music Systems, Inc. in 1988. Shaffer is a self-taught musician who has played both guitar and piano for over 20 years. Check out more about Fretlight on Google+.

Find more about me on:

Here are my most recent posts

The Top 10 Fretlight Guitar Myths

by Rusty Shaffer
Rusty Shaffer
on May 24, 2013 on Fretlight Technology, Learn To Play Guitar, Playing Tips

Myth #1: The Fretlight is a teacher killer – it will put guitar teachers out of business.

False. Like any tool used for any job, there’s a proper way to use that tool and there are invaluable tips that only a human being can give you in order to get the most out of that tool. We have many teachers using Fretlight guitars in their lessons and they have said that their students learn to play guitar faster, seem more engaged, and are more apt to continue with lessons when using a Fretlight.  Instead of the teacher focusing most of the lesson on placing the student’s fingers in the right place, the teacher can now focus on playing techniques, along with insights that come from many years of playing.  Without a Fretlight, the student may not be ready to absorb that wisdom because they are too concerned with where to put their fingers. 

Myth #2: The Fretlight guitar just teaches you to stare at the fretboard.

learning guitarFalse. Actually, the Fretlight guitar simply eliminates the tedious back and forth routine of standard guitar learning. The Fretlight has moved the chord book, scale chart or sheet music a couple of feet so that the information is now right under your fingers instead of sitting on a table in front of you, forcing the player to look away from their fretboard, and over at the chord book or scale chart.  Imagine your computer keyboard without letters and numbers – but instead, those letters and numbers were on a piece of paper to the side of the computer.  You would look back and forth from that sheet of paper trying to plunk away at a blank keyboard. The Fretlight guitar gives you the information you need to learn to play songs on guitar, right where you need it – on the neck of the instrument.

Myth #3: The Fretlight guitar is cheating, the only way to really play guitar is by hard work and memorization.

False. The Fretlight guitar doesn’t play notes for you; it simply allows you to see a roadmap on the fretboard.  Think for instance a GPS vs. a map book, a microwave oven vs. a regular oven, the computer vs. a typewriter.  All of these devices were once thought of as “cheating” and are now accepted as technological breakthroughs, and the same applies for the Fretlight guitars. You still need to practice and memorize; however the Fretlight Guitar simply makes the journey more fun and rewarding.

Myth #4: You won’t learn from the Fretlight guitar – it will be become a crutch.

False. The Fretlight guitar is no more a crutch than a pitching machine is to a baseball player. A pitching machine throws the ball at the same speed to the same location. You might think hitters would only then be able to hit only a ball at that speed and in that location, but really the hitter is working on their timing and hand-eye coordination to hit the balls in any location. The same holds true for the Fretlight guitar: it helps you see where to play, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, it is a tool that helps propel the learning process. It’s up to you to play those notes and develop your technique. This is one reason a guitar teacher is so valuable. Even so, being able to hear the correct notes of a scale or chord allows you to play it right the first time and train your ear – just like a baseball player trains their “eye.”

Myth #5: There are no shortcuts to playing guitar. Your fingers have to bleed and the Fretlight guitar won’t help you get great.

easy guitar learning systemFalse. The Fretlight will not only help you become a better player, it has helped the “greats” stay great! Carlos Santana, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, Edge of U2, Neal Schon of Journey, David Gilmour of Pink Floyd, and many others use a Fretlight to experiment with new scales and new chord fingerings. They don’t need to learn how to play, but where to play to create new sounds and new combinations. Once given the roadmap their creativity handles the rest and so will yours.  Yes, you do have to practice to learn to play songs on guitar and to become a great guitar player but why not give yourself every tool you can in order to get there faster while having a lot more fun.

Myth #6: You won’t ever learn to read music or tab.

False. Guess what – You don’t have to! Most people who play guitar can’t read a lick of music – and actually, a lot of very well known, seasoned professionals can’t either! That’s because guitar is a different animal compared to other instruments. When you learn to play guitar, it is really all about patterns – fingering patterns.  That’s why Fretlight is an amazing tool – seeing the pattern right on the neck allows you to learn to play songs on guitar much faster than other methods.

Myth #7: The Fretlight is not a real guitar – it’s a toy.

fretlight guitar learning systemFalse. The whole goal of Fretlight, or even from the earliest Fretlight guitars made in 1990, was that this amazing learning system had to be on a real guitar. If we put the light system on a toy you would see the patterns, then have to put the toy down and pick up your real guitar and attempt to play them. That’s no different than the current method of looking back and forth from a chart or book to learn to play guitar. By having the Fretlight system on a real guitar, you look down at the fretboard and not only see the lights but you put your fingers on the strings and start playing – learning is instantaneous. Every Fretlight electric guitar can be plugged into a standard amplifier and played just like a normal guitar. The Fretlight uses real strings, has a wood body and wood neck, and real frets and pickups.

Myth #8: If you’re an advanced player you don’t need a Fretlight.

False. The Fretlight allows advanced players to audition new scales and chord patterns in order to create new solos and songs. Here’s an analogy:  Imagine a seasoned driver being transported to a foreign country – they have driven cars for years but now they’re not going to know where to go. Give them a map and they can go anywhere. Advanced players don’t need to learn how to play – they need to know where to play to create new sounds. Fretlight is the only tool that can do that quickly and efficiently.

Myth #9: You have to crane your neck and lean over to see the lights.
False. Whether you’re learning by looking back and forth from charts and books or from the Fretlight, you still have to look at the fretboard to see where to put your fingers. As you learn to play songs on guitar, take a moment to look at a rock guitar God poster – even those greats look down to see where they are.

Myth 10: It only lights up beginner chords in one key.
False. The Fretlight lights up chords and scales in all twelve keys. We even have left-handed Fretlight guitars. Rest assured, Fretlight can light up anything from ‘Mary had a little lamb’ to the hardest Stevie Ray Vaughan solo, and everything in-between.

The Guitar Industry – Setting You Up for Failure

by Rusty Shaffer
Rusty Shaffer
on May 21, 2013 on Learn To Play Guitar, Playing Tips

I’ve spent 29 years in the guitar industry, both as a guitar manufacturer and as a consumer.  I’ve seen and played hundreds of guitars from a variety of manufacturers.  What’s astounding to me is that the guitar industry, comprising the manufacturers, the retailers and even the process of learning to play, successfully guides at least 80% of new players to failure.  And this is exactly where Fretlight makes a difference.